History derives from a Greek word meaning "inquiry". History is a realm open to rational investigation. It is distinguished from the area of myth, fiction, and subjective experience. Jesus in history means that Jesus lived, died, and rose again in a part of our world which can be located on a map and in a time that can be placed on a calendar. The New Testament insists on the fact that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ belong to the category of objective history and not to that of an inner experience. Jesus in history is so important, that His coming divides history into two periods: B.C. and A.D. The wonder and grandeur of Jesus of Nazareth is that He is the Son, who came into the world made through Him, not for His benefit, but for ours: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" John 1:1,14. The New Testament speaks of the objective, historical reality of our Lord's coming in this way: "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life . . . that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that you also may have fellowship with us" I John 1:1-3.
What Jesus wrought in history is for us and, therefore, is announced to us, as to men of the past. But whether we ever are aware of it or not, whether it ever affects us or not, it is there in all its reality, like the shining of the sun in the sky. Not only did Jesus live and die in history, but he was also raised from the dead in history. He did not survive merely in the memory of His disciples; nor did He live on simply in the triumph of His cause. The evidence given in the New Testament that Christ was raised from the dead is solid, historical facts: the empty tomb, the objective appearance. "On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came unto the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus" Luke 24:1-3.
"I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received; that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he had been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep . . . " I Corinthians 15:3-6.
The resurrection of Christ is never established merely by appeal to changed lives or to an experience of the heart. "If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable." I Corinthians 15:14,17-19. Paul Maier, professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, and author of Pontius Pilate, in an article entitled significantly "The Empty Tomb as History" says: "Open nearly any text in ancient history of Western civilization used widely in colleges and universities today, and you will find a generally sympathetic, if compressed, version of Jesus' life, which ends with some variation of the statement that he was crucified by Pontius Pilate and died as a result. No ranking historian anywhere in the world shares the ultimate criticism voiced by Geman philosopher Bruno Bauer in the last century, that Jesus was a myth, that he never lived in fact. And no one denies that Jesus died from crucifixion, since thousands of Roman victims died that way." (Christiani oda XIX (1975), P.630.)
Professor Maier concludes the article by saying that it is time "to include another datum after the otherwise objectively reported Crucifixion: 'On Sunday morning following his Friday execution, 'the tomb in which Jesus of Nazareth was buried stood empty" (P. 632).